By Kelly Beasley
Is there any thrill quite as exciting as hitting the road? Escaping away to a new destination?
Exploring new places (travel) lights up our brains and stirs our curiosity more than just about anything else can, and we Americans LOVE it.
Heck, one could argue that the allure of new adventures and exciting unexplored places is attractive to just about anyone with a pulse.
(Isn't this the allure of RVing?)
The destination is fun, but the ride there can be just as exciting.
That said, there is one problem with vehicle travel: One cannot stop at every landmark or attraction.
It would be exhausting and would make the trip WAY too long.
Yet there is so much you miss within and between many towns.
There are many roadside attractions, historical sites, local landmarks, and more.
It's just inevitable that you miss a ton on the way to your destination.
But there's a new app in town that is changing all that. It's called Autio app (formerly namedHearHere. We liked the name Hearhere but they didn't ask us, lol!).
The Autio app opens up a new exploration world that doesn't require you to stop the RV or car.
"TELL ME MORE!!" (RIGHT??)
With the app, you'll get more out of your adventure whether you're a van dweller, a weekend warrior, an occasional traveler, or a full-time RVing traveler.
What Is Autio?
Autio (formerly Hearhere)is a travel app co-founded by Kevin Costner.
Yes, THEEEE Kevin Costner (let me have my fangirl moment).
As you drive by certain locations in the United States, this app gives you the chance to listen to stories about what is nearby.
It opens up a whole new world while you're on a road trip, and it's still pretty new-to-the market (iPhone only. Android coming soon. I know, I know... but don't shoot the messenger!).
Autio offers interesting stories that offer facts and history about the places and things you're passing while driving (8,700+ stories at the time of publishing!).
It shares stories of many types (culture, history, local insights, unique places of interest, etc.)
It achieves this by notifying you of a nearby story. Then you can choose to listen to it or not.
I'm sharing my experience of how it worked for me, what I did and didn't like about it, and more.
And yes, they reached out to Camp Addict (I wish Kevin had been the asker, but nope, haha) asking us if we wanted to review the app over a year ago, back in September of 2020.
So we've been on and off testing it for over a year. Here's what I (as I did most of the testing) found.
How Does It Work?
First, you must install the app on your phone (only currently available for iPhone).
Once installed, set up an account.
To get the most out of your trip, make sure you set location services to 'always' under your settings.
Otherwise, it doesn't know where you are and therefore cannot alert you of nearby stories.
The app asks for permission to see your location when you download the app.
It would be best if you also have notifications turned on for the app. Otherwise, it can't announce to you when there's a nearby story.
You'll have to look them up manually, otherwise.
That's not safe, nor convenient, while you're driving.
As you travel, the app detects when stories are nearby and will send you a pop-up notification. You choose to listen or not.
Autio offers stories about history, culture, natural wonders, local insights, music, sports, unique places of interest, and more.
Under 'account', pick which interests you are the most excited about by organizing them in a top to bottom list.
Then, Autio shows you the nearby stories in the order of your preferences.
What I Like About Autio
Having traveled the west for 5.5 years straight and FULL-time, I found myself often going to the same spots over and over again after about year 3.
This meant that my travel days weren't as interesting since I usually took the same routes.
Autio offered up a break in the usual routine of the same old same old route. Now I learned new things about the places I had passed 2+ times before.
The app is easy to use and allows you to listen as slow or fast as you want (I realized this just recently, oops!)
It won't offer up to listen to stories you have already heard once you have had a listen. (As in on your way back home, you won't get prompted to listen to the same stores you already heard.)
I also like that you don't HAVE to be near whatever you want to explore/hear. You can click on any pin on the map at any time to listen to it.
You can explore much of the country sitting right on your living room couch!
What I Dislike About It
Honestly, there's not much to dislike about the app. Not that I can find, and this is my personal opinion.
The one thing that initially bothered me they fixed.
What was it? When I first tested it, when I was using navigation on my phone and Autio simultaneously, the app wouldn't stop the story when navigation spoke.
Therefore, I missed that part of the story.
However, I mentioned this issue, and they remedied it right away.
Nothing else exists that I don't like. Just a bummer it's not available for Android users just yet.
That said, I would recommend getting familiar with the app BEFORE you start using it while driving.
Why? Because I JUST learned about a feature or two I didn't previously see.
You see, once it came time to write this post, I was using the app on my couch.
There, I discovered a great feature that I hadn't while driving. (I discovered the player, which lets you speed up the story or rewind it).
Also, earlier on, they didn't cover the entire country, but that has also been remedied since I have been testing.
The USA map is now covered with pins for stories (over 8,700).
Does Autio Offer An Android App?
Autio does not have an app for Android phones YET. In Dec of 2021, they informed us that it was slated to be released in June 2022 (Update: As of July 14th, 2022, it's still only available for iOS).
It seems the release date has been pushed back before.
Is Autio Free?
It is free- you can listen to 5 stories per month, totally free!
Beyond that, you must purchase a subscription if you want to listen to more.
How Much Does Autio Cost?
You can listen to 5 stories per month, 100% free as stated above.
To listen to more, you must subscribe. The subscription gives you unlimited story listening.
Here are their subscription fees:
- 1 Year: $35.99
- 3 Years: $69.99
- 30 days unlimited access: $29.99
With the subscription, you also get offline listening for future listening or for listening while you're at home.
Do They Display Ads?
No matter what you choose, free or a paid plan with Autio, THERE ARE NO COMMERCIALS or ADS!
Here are the main features to know about the app:
Under map view, you guessed it, it shows a map of all of the stories. It also shows your location on the map.
How many stories you can see in this view depends on how much you zoom out or in.
The more you zoom out, the more stories you'll see and vice versa.
Additionally, you can choose to look at the map view or switch to a 'list' view of the stories.
This way, you can choose what you want to listen to on the map, or you can look at the list to play only what piques your interest.
Also, the story pins you've already heard turn gray on the map and the pins you haven't heard are darker colored.
Unfortunately, I didn't find this feature until I wrote this post grrrr.
You see, there's a 'player' selection at the bottom of the app that, apparently, I never paid attention to. You can click on it after choosing a story.
It doesn't automatically default to the player once a story starts. Instead, it still shows the map view and shows which story is playing at the bottom. No controls.
That said, the player offers control while playing the story.
You're shown what is playing, a photo of the story, and it allows you to bookmark the story.
Most importantly, you can speed up or slow down the playback (.05x to 2x), fast forward and rewind, or even jump to the next story!
Geez, I wish I had explored it sooner. I like listening to things faster than regular speed.
You might, too. I was a little annoyed at times that I couldn't push 'rewind' when I was listening in the map view. Totally my bad.
Additionally, if you scroll down, this section shows you where the story is on the map.
On top of that, you can click 'get directions' just below the map, and it will navigate you to that exact spot where the story is pinned.
"My Stories" Section
Under this section, you can review stories you have bookmarked, see your favorites, and view your listening history.
It also shows you where on the map your saved stories are.
We all know that driving new, unknown roads is amazing. But when you hit the same road more than once, the excitement might dwindle.
I found that with Autio, an old drive was spiced right back up from stories about the area I previously had no idea about.
Since the app is made to be used while in transit, thankfully, the app stops talking to you if Google Maps or Apple Maps starts to give you driving directions. It then resumes once maps stops its verbal guidance.
This is a fantastic addition to any trip, and I highly recommend Autio to anybody interested, even if I do wish it was still called Hearhere!
If you have any questions about the app, comment below, I'm happy to answer.
Author: Kelly Beasley
I dedicated myself to living the full-time RV life for over 6.5 years, immersing myself in the unique quirks and joys of the boondocking lifestyle and gaining a wealth of knowledge and experience along the way. In December 2020, my business partner and I made the transition to part-time RVing, but in January 2023, we hit the road once again, this time in our trusty vans. My mission is to help others embrace the RVing lifestyle with confidence and excitement, armed with the knowledge and resources needed to make the most of their adventures. I believe that the more you know, the more you can truly appreciate and enjoy the freedom and flexibility of the open road.